I love the Christian Peacemaker Teams, and I hope one day to be in a life circumstance where I can join in on their mission to "get in the way" of those who pursue violence and war. In the meantime, I read their weekly updates avidly. Today's brought tears to my eyes:
14 May 2008
IRAQ REFLECTION: Pentecost in Kurdistan
by Beth Pyles
And how is it that we hear . . .? --Acts 2
It is Pentecost. The Team gathers for prayer and leaves its apartment to conduct a training in nonviolence and reconciliation with people from the Kurdish and surrounding governorates. They have come from Tikrit, Mosul and Kirkuk. They have lived in Baghdad and Kurdish villages. A few speak English, most Arabic, some Kurdish, and one of us, Cantonese.
How will we communicate? Will they stare, bewildered like those first Christians who heard the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in languages not their own? Will they be angry at our presumption that we might have anything to offer? Will they be captive to their own allegiances, unable or unwilling to speak against the limitations of their own governments? Will they stay silent?
We needn’t have worried. Disagreeing with the structure of one exercise, a woman challenges me early on. After some wrangling to have my way, I concede, saying, "Salaam, Ashti" (peace), and she replies, "No, democracia!" We smile together at her wisdom.
We end the day with the Heart Exercise: Those who wish to do so tell their stories about how violence has affected them. Each holds a pink paper heart while sharing, and at the end, tears a piece from the heart, symbolizing the brokenness that violence leaves behind.
We do not interrupt with translation. Instead, we listen with our hearts. Voices clutch with emotion; eyes brim with tears; sounds of anger and sorrow fill the room; fists are clenched, heads shaken in disbelief. The first two who share, a Muslim and a Christian from the Mosul area, leave the heart whole. Next comes a Muslim woman, statuesque and proud, the same woman who reminded me of democracy.
Her voice trembles. She regains her composure and continues. Her voice rises, the emotion intensifies. Virtually everyone in the room is in tears. She crumples the intact paper heart in her hands and rips it in two.
I do not understand the words of her story, but I do know that violence has not just broken her heart; it has torn her asunder.
Another woman cries out "This is too hard!" She is right. It is too hard.
Earlier in the day, participants had broken into groups by ethnicity to describe their own strengths and hurts, as well as the strengths and hurts of the others. When they came together, everyone was open and affirming, but within their groups, as our translator listened in, people mumbled against each other: "We’re not going to say that about them!" "They aren’t going to hear something nice from us!" But during the sharing of the heart stories, our translator saw the same people weeping for the pain of the other, people speaking with the ones they had condemned, people opening their hearts to the torn hearts of their enemies.
In one room in one city in one region of Iraq, Pentecost has come.